It’s July, and I can’t deny my immoderate self.
It’s July, and we’ve had hot weather and all kinds of excellent company; possibly one too many parties, countless reasons to celebrate, many bottles of good wine; trips to the pool, to the splash pads, to the toy store for gifts small and otherwise, to the Junction flea, to the wine store and to the corner store for more chips.
It’s July, with its boozy lunches and early mornings and sweaty nights, phone dates with far flung friends, cold coffees and hot cars.
It’s July, the very end, and we have literally a day or two to take a deep breath and regroup before the madness of August is upon us.
This, friends, is summer in the city, and we are loving every minute.
My mom has been visiting, and to celebrate, I got some gorgeous, plump “dry” scallops on special at our local fish store a few days ago. This is my favourite kind of dish, simple and decadent – I served it with steamed green beans, but any yummy side would do.
4 strips good bacon, cut into lardons
16-18 (just over a pound, or about 4 per person) large bay scallops
juice of a lemon
2 tbsp white wine
1/2c lightly packed fresh mint leaves, very finely chopped
Cook bacon in a large, heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat until crispy. Transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate; reserve 2 tbsp of bacon fat in skillet.
Return pan to burner, and increase heat to medium-high. Pat scallops dry, and salt and pepper on both sides.
Add scallops to skillet in one layer. Brown well on each side – about 1 1/2 minutes per side – then transfer to a warm plate. Add lemon juice and wine to pan, stirring and scraping up any brown bits. Remove pan from heat; stir in mint, and pour sauce over scallops.
Serves four, or three if – as in our case – you are gilding the lily.
This is my girl.
She’s bright and kind and compassionate and sharply articulate.
My girl. Isn’t she something?
I don’t know a woman who has not struggled with body-image issues.
For my part, in my adult life I have largely avoided the weight (or, more accurately, weight-loss) fixation that seems so commonplace in our culture, but I am by no means immune, especially since having my children:
It took me two years to lose the 90-plus pounds (yes, you read that right) that I gained while pregnant with my daughter; and, nearly three years in, I am still working at shedding the last of the (considerably less, thankfully) weight that I gained while carrying my son.
In both cases, I was aware but largely unconcerned about the impact of my post-baby girth until one too many well-meaning comments penetrated my maternal bliss enough to make me want to get moving – not so much because I was displeased with how I looked (although I do cringe a little, looking at the photos from those times) but because I began to feel vulnerable and a little bit ill-treated; and at some point it occurred to me, humiliatingly, that my outward appearance was no longer an accurate reflection of – well – me.
I won’t burden you with the details of the resulting lifestyle choices (that very phrase being one of the most narcolepsy-inducing I know), but if you know me at all by now, you will be aware that, no matter that I am nearing forty and lead a generally responsible adult life, self-denial at the table is not – and has never been – my strong suit.
So instead, I try to get out running as often as I can.
I am not very sporty, and I don’t much like being around other people, so running suits me well: music blaring, lost in thought, unhinged from my daily responsibilities, I come home from a run bursting with a happiness that feels almost reckless.
The way I see it, there are at least two happy side effects to all of this (and no, lest anyone tell you otherwise, the hard work etc. is not its own reward): the first is that I have made peace with my park.
The second is that I believe that my daily run makes me a kinder person, or at least a more tolerant one.
(I know for a fact that it makes me easier to live with – as evidenced by the fact that my husband will, if I am lingering grumpily around the house on a given morning, ask me in the same slightly impatient tone he uses with our children when they are being particularly unreasonable, “are you running today?”)
Even given all of that, though, I don’t always love it. I will gratefully welcome an excuse to skip it, and wander down the road to join all of my neighbours for a latte instead. On those days, rather than the large lingering lunch that might be my preference, I pour myself a glass of Perrier and eat things like this.
Feast or Famine? A Summer Salad
I am not a fan of the leaf-heavy, hair-shirt-y salad; in fact, that I consider this a healthy lunch is perhaps a more telling insight into my daily diet than I intended – all that’s missing is the bacon! – but there’s only so much I’m willing to do.
For the salad, gently toss the following together in a large bowl:
2 pints grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1c canned black beans, well rinsed
2 tbsp capers
1 1/2 lightly packed basil leaves, finely chopped
1/3c pine nuts, toasted and cooled
175g feta, cubed
For the dressing, whisk together until emulsified:
1 tsp dijon
4 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4c extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp umami paste (optional – I recently discovered this stuff and I love it! Anchovy paste – or even nothing at all – would be a fine substitute)
fresh ground pepper
Pour dressing over salad and toss gently.
Serves two very hungry people, or four moderate eaters, or six as part of a larger spread.
It’s been ages, an appallingly long stretch. I know.
But let’s not dwell too much on that, shall we? I am just going to quickly catch you up, so we can all move on. Because now it’s not been weeks or months, but seasons, and that will never do.
If it’s any consolation, you haven’t missed much:
I spent the month of April largely griping about the weather and pining rather intensely for my far away friends and family. Easter happened, and with it a beautiful duck pho, which was hurriedly photographed but otherwise languishes, delicious but undocumented, in our collective domestic memory (for shame!).
Towards the end of the month, my husband’s touring season began, as did roughly six weeks of on-and-off houseguests around these parts – including the utterly delightful Kenny Anderson, who charmed every one of us but most especially my small son.
May is one of my favourite months of the year, second only to October. Some of my most beloved people have birthdays in May, and I was lucky enough to celebrate with more than one of them
(I feel I should mention that one of the celebrations was epic enough to deserve its own post, and involved – along with excellent food and drinks in copious quantities – an absolutely lovely and enviably talented group of women, several of whom I met for the first time that evening. My good fortune knows no bounds).
Luckier still, my mom returned to this part of the world after what felt like an interminable winter away, and her strength and health and good humour brought me no end of relief.
June, with its sweaty nights and solo-parenting and the swampy smell in the park in the mornings, passed me by in a wink.
And now here it is, July already, and the beginning of birthday cake season around here. I have a bit of a love-hate thing for this time of year, involving as it does so much indulgence, and weather just warm enough that much of my resolve to keep at least a loose lid on it melts into a sweaty puddle at my all-too-rarely running-shoe-clad feet.
But when I say love-hate, it’s mostly love, because really, summer is so short. We’ve got some great visitors to look forward to, and my children have just discovered the vast joy of early mornings spent at the local pool.
I absolutely adore using the twin excuses of heat and good conversation to justify a dinner of cold wine and potato chips.
And the dearest of my dears, the three loves of my life, all have their birthdays in the next six weeks.
So stay tuned, friends, and buckle up…
It’s good to be back.